Horse race is a civil war

June 08, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Garry McKinney held his horse Midnight Star back as a re-enactor lowered his sword to start the race Sunday.

But it didn't take long for McKinney's charger to pull ahead of the other three Civil War re-enactors at the Charles Town Races.

McKinney, dressed as an officer in the Confederate Army, pulled his horse up short of the finishing line, but Midnight Star easily won the race.


"I had no idea how fast he was," McKinney said.

The "Thunder in the Valley" re-enactment weekend ended Sunday as the troopers in the Union and Confederate costumes broke camp in a field across from the Charles Town Races.

A crowd estimated at 600 people attended a battle in the downtown on Saturday.

Robert Pratt, organizer and general of the Confederate Shenandoah Division, said he did not know if his unit will return next year because of protests from some downtown business owners upset that customers could not get to their stores.

The streets had been closed for the re-enactment in the town square, recreating one of the 18 sieges of Charles Town during the Civil War.

The battle was followed by a parade.

The crowd was considerably smaller than the 2,000 people expected, according to local police officials who turned out to direct traffic.

But Nan Furioso, who operates the downtown Charles Town Visitors Center, said she thought it was the best weekend event ever staged in Charles Town and she hopes it returns next year.

McKinney said he and other re-enactors enjoyed the weekend though they wished there had been a higher turnout.

He won the race in front of a sparse crowd of about 200 spectators and re-enactors at the race track.

McKinney, 41, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said he enjoys being able to sit around a campfire with other cavalrymen.

Being a re-enactor forces a person to slow down and enjoy life, McKinney said.

Kevin Roberson, 35, of Westminster, Md., may have wished McKinney's horse had slowed down as it passed his horse, April.

"She had the lead in the beginning, but I could hear him catching up," Roberson said with a laugh. "I was eating sand the rest of the race."

Still, he said he enjoyed it.

"That was a blast," Roberson said.

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